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REVIEW: Delia’s Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer

Delias-Shadow

“It is the dawn of a new century in San Francisco and Delia Martin is a wealthy young woman whose life appears ideal. But a dark secret colors her life, for Delia’s most loyal companions are ghosts, as she has been gifted (or some would say cursed) with an ability to peer across to the other side.

Since the great quake rocked her city in 1906, Delia has been haunted by an avalanche of the dead clamoring for her help. Delia flees to the other side of the continent, hoping to gain some peace. After several years in New York, Delia believes she is free…until one determined specter appears and she realizes that she must return to the City by the Bay in order to put this tortured soul to rest.

It will not be easy, as the ghost is only one of the many victims of a serial killer who was never caught. A killer who after thirty years is killing again.

And who is now aware of Delia’s existence.”

Dear Ms. Moyer,

A beautiful cover can catch my attention and the one for “Delia’s Shadow” got me in a headlock. I saw it and had to click on the link for more information. Who is this woman in the Edwardian clothing and why is she so somber? Well, I guess if you’ve seen ghosts all your life and are now returning to a city that’s teeming with them after the earthquake, you’d be straight faced too.

Though Delia has returned to San Francisco for her best friend’s wedding, she’s also aware that a ghost she calls “Shadow” has ties to the city and wants something from Delia. Since she can only see them and experience their emotions – horrifying in the case of the people who burned to death after the earthquake – Delia doesn’t know why Shadow has appeared and haunts her both by day and in her dreams. It doesn’t take her long to find out.

The book is told from Delia’s first person POV and the 3rd person of Gabe – a police officer whose father was also cop and who is now trying to find and stop a horrific serial killer. Delia’s sections were more immediate, more emotional to me. I guess the reason behind the two differing PsoV is that Delia is our window into the paranormal while Gave stands for the cold realism of the every day? I’m sure there’s an reason for the choice to have Gabe’s section told in third person I’m still not sure that it made a difference to me beyond what I said earlier.

“Delia’s Shadow” is a sort of romance x mystery/thriller. While neither part totally fell apart for me, I did have issues with both. For suspense fans, I think it’s important to note that there is little chance of them being able to solve the identify of the killer until late in the book at about the same time as the police. The emphasis is more on how Gabe and Delia go about solving the crimes using their own particular knowledge and skills.

I found it fascinating to see how by this point in time so many modern forensics techniques – including using folding Kodak cameras to take crime scene photos and taking plaster casts of footprints – went along with the time honored questioning of witnesses and examining crime scenes. Flamboyant psychic character Isadora also introduces important information she learned while helping on murder cases elsewhere. Dora is a fascinating character and I’d love to see her story told. The new age just dawning seems like it would suit her to perfection: Flapper dresses, ciggies in long holders, fast cars, loose sex and lots of booze.

As Delia explained how she sees ghosts, I got more twitchy. It’s one thing to encounter them at specific places – at least that way you can leave – but to have them follow you around and not be able to shake them off – that gave me the creeps. The number of ghosts just exploded as the story progressed to the point that it felt like a “pile on.” Delia sees and senses tons of them out on the streets but the Larkin house gets packed to the gills with all the ones Shadow hauls back from the spirit world.

Delia’s dreams of Shadow get more intense, more involved the longer she’s back in SF with Delia now “in her skin” and seeing/feeling what Shadow felt. These were skin crawling scenes to me showing the horror of what the victims their fate would be. We see none of the crimes actually happening which is good for my stomach given what is done to the victims but … I wanted to know how the killer so easily overpowers two victims at a time x multiple times. And what was behind his obsession – the reason behind the madness? It’s made clear what he’s enacting but why? That was never explained.

I didn’t feel that there isn’t any romance but the main emphasis of the story, and a lot of Gabe and Delia’s relationship, is catching the killer so their progressing courtship tended to get caught up in that. This does serve to establish how much Gabe is willing to believe in what Dee tells him about how she “sees” and experiences the world and how much he trusts her about this. Enough to face the skepticism and amusement of the police force who know about what she can do. Mention is made of long walks they take as they discuss the case and many evenings spent chastely together but I would have liked to actually see more of this instead of just being told.

Lots of historical detail is included which made the book feel very much of its time and place. There were some sections, however, that got bogged down in stuff that I felt went on too long and added little to story. For instance, when the two couples initially went to dinner at the Pan Pacific Fair, the pace slowed to a crawl as the sights were described. I kept wondering if this information would be important later but ultimately it just felt like unneeded padding.

I did guess some of the things that happened in the story, some of the relationships, some of the outcomes but other incidents took me by off guard. Despite the fact that Gabe and Delia put 2 and 2 together early on and start working together, I was happily surprised by how well the tension is maintained even through the catching of the killer. I almost knew who would be the final victim but was still caught up in what was going to happen and would the police arrive in time. So, well done with that. If a few things had been explained more or shown more, I would have been a happier camper though. B-

~Jayne

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4 Comments

  1. Mara
    Sep 15, 2013 @ 15:52:51

    Beautiful cover and a cool idea for a story. Thanks for the thorough review. I’d like to read this one.

  2. Jayne
    Sep 16, 2013 @ 06:35:36

    @Mara: It’s set during the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition which got a lot of potential victims in town for the killer to choose from.

  3. Darlene Marshall
    Sep 17, 2013 @ 08:15:40

    Thanks for this review. I’ve been seeing ads and a little advance buzz in the SF&F publications, but this is the first full review of the book I’ve seen. It does look intriguing.

  4. Ghosts, Murder, and History, Oh My | The Other Side of the Rain
    Nov 21, 2013 @ 13:20:44

    […] Jayne, “Review: Delia’s Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer,” Dear Author. […]

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